Sheriff candidate questionnaire: Bob Rosipal
Name: Bob Rosipal
Occupation: Lt. Deputy Sheriff
Party Affiliation: Republican
Undersheriff: Dan O’Fallon
Q: Why are you running for sheriff?
A: I’m running for Sheriff/Coroner because I care about our sheriff’s office, our staff and our citizens. I am committed to Cascade County as a community member and deputy with 26 years of experience. I know our office and the needs to continue to grow in a positive and productive manner.
Q: What do you consider the top three challenges for the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office?
A: The challenges for the sheriff’s office include meeting the safety needs of the entire county, while being fiscally responsible. My three top challenges include the need to increase manpower to better serve our county residence, continuing our partnership with rural school safety and rebuilding the climate and culture of our office.
Q: What do you believe is the role of the sheriff in Cascade County?
A: The sheriff’s role is to serve and protect all citizens of the county as defined in Montana Code Annotated (7-32-2121). The sheriff should lead by example and hold himself to the same standards, or higher, as those he leads. I believe the sheriff needs to be available to staff and citizens to solve problems. I will work alongside the deputies and detention officers on a daily basis. This means I will be on the street and in the detention center listening, watching, and holding us to the highest standard of service.
Q: If elected, what would be your initial priorities? What would you do to accomplish those goals?
A: My initial priorities include improving the climate of the office, providing better safety through manpower, and developing sustainable community committees.
Building a positive climate for the employees will become part of our office culture. This means working with the administration/supervisors and ensuring we are taking care of the entire staff. We will keep morale up and maintain the trust in leadership.
Cascade is a large county serving almost 82,000 citizens. Safety comes with manpower. I cannot, nor can any other candidate, promise to hire deputies without first having a plan. I know there is only so much taxpayer money allocated to the public safety every year, therefore, I will meet with the commissioners and go over my plan to accomplish this goal. Cost savings could be through grants and other funding sources. Realistically we can’t rely long-term grants. In order to reach the goal, I have a four-year plan.
I want to establish the Community or Citizen Committee. This committee existed several years ago and consisted of citizens from around the county. It brought them together with the sheriff to discuss issues in their areas. This helped with problem solving and transparency.
Q: If elected, what would be your approach to addressing drug/alcohol addiction problems in Cascade County?
A: I would invite representatives from the County Attorney’s Office, GFPD and the CCSO to meet regularly to look at statistics of those who have addiction and are in the revolving door. This task force would continually look for solutions and review various program effectiveness. The CA’s Office is doing well with getting people into Treatment Court and other Rehabilitation programs. There are great stories of success with these programs. However, a person is going to continue their addiction until they have hit rock bottom and decide for themselves to quit. We may not know about the addiction until after the person has violated the law. There is a new program that Gateway is starting, which is a peer-to-peer program. I would support that, and other addiction programs within the jail.
Q: What approach do you think the CCSO should take to address overcrowding at the jail? Do you believe the jail needs to be expanded or do you think there are ways to reduce the jail population through other means?
A: CCSO should be proactive in planning. At some point, building on to the jail is going to be necessary. The local needs are growing. We have approximately 230 pre-trial city and probation inmates. On the County side of the jail there are only 208 beds. There are options for reducing the population that include the 24/7 program and not booking in misdemeanor offenders. Judges and attorneys are doing as much as they can right now to reduce the population.
Q: What role do you think CCSO and law enforcement should play in crime prevention and how would you accomplish that?
A: CCSO should partner with our local communities. Being part of a proactive educational team is crucial to prevention. Training our community members in crime prevention is simple. When the community members meet at town meetings, fire meetings, teacher meetings, EMS meetings and the community/citizen committee meetings we can conduct training for crime prevention.
Q: How do you think the CCSO can improve community relations? In your opinion, how can the community help law enforcement keep the peace, (i.e. neighborhood watch, calling in tips vs. vigilante justice)?
A: As I have said before, having the assigned deputy to specific areas meet with the citizens at their town meetings, fire meetings, school meetings, EMS meetings and communicating with them on what we are doing, and listening to their issues will build these relationships. As a former resident deputy of Cascade, I spent a little over seven years doing that. Having those relationships with citizens makes them more involved with their communities and with community involvement, criminal activity declines.
Q: Since a major responsibility of the sheriff is the budget, how will you be a good steward of the taxpayer’s money?
A: Each part of the CCSO can be evaluated based on the success of programs and operations. Gathering baseline data and reviewing this information quarterly will be used to determine the best way to continue with our fiscal responsibility to our county. Currently, the jail receives about $1.2 million from the Cascade County taxes to run it, and about $4.2 million to run law enforcement. Our overall budget authority for the Cascade County Sheriff/Detention Center is about $14.4 million. We generate about $9 million by revenue from contract inmates and other revenues throughout the year: thus, saving the taxpayers $9 million per year.
Q: What do you believe is the appropriate staffing level of the CCSO to meet the needs of Cascade County? What resources would you need to make changes?
A: When considering the size of Cascade County, it is difficult to put an exact number to the needs. Right now, I believe the staffing for our sworn deputies needs to be at least 45. The resource needed is money. Our deputies are responsible to work their assigned cases from start to finish. The detectives will assist with major cases, but they currently are assigned to sex offenses.
I’d like to increase the detention staff by at least six. I would use these positions for the courthouse guard and bailiff positions. Missoula County has been doing this for years and it works well. It provides better security for the judges, attorney, employees and the public.
Q: How should the CCSO work with other agencies such as the Great Falls Police Department?
A: The sheriff’s office works well with other agencies, too include the GFPD, MHP, FWP, and law enforcement agencies throughout the state of Montana. Whether it is patrol functions, coroner functions or SWAT incidents. We have those relationships in place. We also have good relationships with other first responders (DES, fire, & EMS). We all have the same goal, which is public safety.
Q: How do you think CCSO can address mental health issues related to crime and those in the criminal justice system?
A: We need to make sure all of our staff is trained on dealing with mental illness. Some of the deputies and detention staff are trained in Crisis Intervention Training. Law enforcement is the first to be called for mental health incidents. We need to identify the person is in crisis and make use of our resources. One is the Crisis Response Team, which is made up of mental health professionals. They will respond, or offer advise on the person in crisis. We do not need to criminalize someone in crisis by taking them to jail, just to end the call. The CRT team will get the person other resources to assist them in their time of need. That could be a family member or close friend/peer. We need to build or maintain the partnerships with Benefis, Center for Mental Health, and other resources that come along.
Q: Any additional comments on your plans if elected (but please be concise)?
A: My dedication to Cascade County has been demonstrated my whole life. I was born and raised in this great county. I have made this the home for my family and have served our citizens for 26 years. I will be a working sheriff. I will lead by example and hold myself to the standards that the staff and public are held to without exception. My focus will be to continue serving and protecting.